Residents planning to hit the road for Labor Day weekend are urged to plan ahead, as Orange Line bus diversion routes and local road closures have led to heavier than average congestion on state highways.
“I think as we all know this is typically a very, very busy weekend,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver in a Friday press call.
“We saw some extra volume within the Thursday commute overall, but especially in the afternoon, and like most holiday weekends, we are expecting that heavy travel times are going to continue.”
Gridlock that has been seen on interstates and primary routes, such as I-93, I-95, and Routes 1 and IA during the Orange and partial Green Line shutdowns — as motorists heed advice to avoid diversion routes — will also tie up roadways this weekend, Gulliver said.
Heavy congestion is expected on Friday afternoon, when many people begin their trips, and late Monday afternoon when they start making their way home, particularly on roads out of Cape Cod and those that link out-of-state travelers back to Massachusetts.
To mitigate traffic impacts, Gulliver said MassDOT has shut down some key construction sites and is shifting to a holiday schedule for carpool and swing lanes on highways.
Post-Labor Day travel is typically busy as well, he said, as people adjust to their new work and school schedules, but questions remain around what a post-COVID daily commute will look like in a largely remote world.
Summer traffic volumes are expected to continue this fall, but different drivers will be on the road, such as daily commuters rather than people traveling in and out of the city for leisure, and more buses and students to mark the start of the school year.
“We expect that there’s going to be an adjustment period over the next couple of weeks as everyday drivers return and start to settle into a new pattern,” Gulliver said. “This is something we have experienced in past years, but again with post-COVID, it’s not as predictable as it used to be.”
For example, he said many commuters have opted to travel during the midday and late afternoon hours to avoid the traditional peak times of morning and afternoon, which has spread out the volume of traffic.
“It’s a trend that has been making travel much, and commuting especially, much more manageable than it used to be,” Gulliver said. “It’s one of the congestion techniques that we had been really pushing pre-COVID that we hope is going to continue post-COVID.”